Sunday, September 23, 2012

[REVIEW] Mark of the Ninja

Release Date: September 7, 2012
System Reviewed: Xbox 360
Plays LikeShadow Complex, 2D CastlevaniaMetroid

What's Great: Classic, two-dimensional exploration. There have been games that have dabbled with stealth in 2D, but this game almost nails it. The controls, once mastered, make you feel like a ninja, as you're flying across the screen, grappling to a fro, ducking into air vents, hiding out of sight.

Terrorizing guards is a absolute treat. The game's stealth is done to a point, where you could distract one guard, who's mid-conversation with another, while you dangle down from a perch point, haul him up Batman Connor-style, hide out in a secondary location, and wait for the guard to return to his conversation, only to find the lifeless body of his comrade strung up to a light post. God damn is that awesome.

Lastly, the stealth improvements are phenomenal, especially the whole "fog of war". You can't see what your character literally cannot see. Whatever is out of his line of sight becomes blurry, and any enemy that was once visible that walks away becomes blurry, then disappears, with his own last known location appearing. There's even the rings of sound that emanate from their source, be it footsteps or a dart that hits a surface.

What's (Not So) Great: Some may find the structured way that new abilities are doled out a bit of a downer, as your ability tree is slowly unlocked as you beat story-missions. One of the most powerful moves is the last thing you learn (part of the whole "tattoos give you powers" line), but is tied to a suit you have to wear, rather than an innate ability, such as freezing time. Then again, it's a trade-off, but it'd be nice to be this "all powerful" ninja.

Bottom Line: Mark of the Ninja has quickly shaped what other stealth games should be doing. Be it a new Shinobi title or Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, every game within the genre should take some pointers from this game. The guys and gals at Klei have been on a rampage since N+, followed up with the Shank games. The entire game is great, and comes highly recommended to many gamers.

Grade: A-

(Played the game in it's entirety, but wasn't masochistic enough for New Game+. Earned 22 out of 30 Achievements, worth 265 points.)